Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A heart for others: CSER ignites attitudes of service

Service and screams — Scaremare is one of the ways that students are serving the community and sharing the gospel. Photo provided

More than 5,400 Liberty students volunteered about 132,000 hours of service to the local community in Fall 2010, according to Darren Wu, Liberty’s Christian/Community Service (CSER) coordinator. Last spring, more than 5,700 students volunteered just shy of 130,000 hours, Wu said.

According to an economic study released in 2010, Liberty students, faculty and staff contributed 674,879 CSER hours in 2009. The study showed that the average student volunteered 4.3 hours each month, and that the monetary value of those hours (at minimum wage in 2009) would come to $4.9 million.

About 10 years ago, the requirement for graduation changed from 40 hours per semester to 20 hours per semester, Director of Christian/Community Service Dr. Lew Weider said.

“For a long time, it was a minimum of three hours a week…over the years we recognized the diversity of our student body and the need for every single student to be doing something in a specific way for community service,” Weider said.

Weider said when the hours-per-semester requirement was reduced to 20 hours, administration took into consideration students with many commitments (such as members of sports teams or students with limited free time due to challenging courses) to determine the average one-and-a-half-hours per week that are now required. Weider said he believes the benefits of participating in CSER for students are multi-faceted.

“Number one, it gives them an opportunity to use their gifts to evangelize — they’re using their spiritual gifts to edify the body of Christ, or they can use those as a platform to lead someone to Christ,” Weider said. “Second, it’s an opportunity for them to gain experience, possibly in their field of study. So they’re learning, especially if they choose a CSER in their field of study. And it also enhances their resume and can provide experience in their field.”

There are three requirements that CSER service opportunities must meet: students cannot get paid, cannot receive scholarships and cannot receive academic credit.

Although every student must fulfill their CSER requirements to graduate, many students, such as sophomore Jill O’Dell, go above and beyond the requirement to serve others.

O’Dell recently volunteered with a group of 110 students on a five-day trip to Binghamton, N.Y. to help with diaster relief efforts after the town was damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. She spent the majority of her time there cleaning houses with severe water damage so the owners could rebuild.

“It just sounded like a great opportunity to help, so I jumped on it,” she said. “It was hard, nasty, dirty work — but it was a great experience. I heard about (Hurricane Irene) for one day when it happened and then it left my mind, but these people lost their homes. The house my group worked on, the water went all the way up to the ceiling so the walls collapsed. They lost everything.”

Another opportunity for students to serve is coming up as Halloween gets closer — last year, Scaremare used nearly 250 volunteers, according to Kamilla Dening, who coordinates the use of CSER workers. As a result of that volunteer work, an estimated 3,000 people made professions of faith after visiting last year’s Scaremare, she said.

Each year, the Volunteer of the Year Christian Service Award is presented to a student whgo demonstrates excellence in Christian service and ministry. Students are nominated by their supervisors at the organizations where they volunteer.

For more information, visit www.liberty.edu/cser.

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